Better safeguards for Commercial Video On-Demand viewers

Classifying on-demand video content will be made mandatory to bring it in line with other media and provide better guidance and protections to families and young people, says Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and our classifications system has not kept pace,” the Minister said. “Our children and young people are at particular risk of harm from this, which is why we are making changes to fix this problem.”

The Classification Act will be amended to require Commercial Video on-Demand (CVoD) providers, such as Netflix and Lightbox, to show the same classifications and consumer warnings as seen on films and DVDs.

The new framework will mean:

 CVoD content must have a classification before it airs in New Zealand.

  • CVoD providers will be able to self-classify content using the Rating Tool being developed by the Chief Censor, or their own systems accredited by the Classification Office.
  • The Office will approve and enforce the classifications, with reviews of decisions made by the Film and Literature Board of Review, as is the case for movies and DVDs.

 “We’ve had a voluntary regime for classification for streaming services, which means that ratings and consumer warnings can be inconsistent or missing,” the Minister says.

 “The worst example of this is what happened around the first season of ‘13 Reasons Why’ when there were no warnings around sexual violence and suicide for that show.

“The changes will standardise classifications for video-on demand and bring them in line with films and DVDs so that families and young people know what they’re about to see when they sit down to a show or film.

“This is only one piece of the overall media reform we need, but it’s an important step in helping to manage unnecessary harm to young and vulnerable people and allowing them to make informed choices.”

Self-classification will allow content providers to provide relevant classification for New Zealand consumers without creating a significant delay in access to shows and films.

The proposals come following consultation with the public and providers and are likely to be introduced to Parliament as an Amendment Bill in late November.

Officials will be conducting further consultation with industry and regulatory bodies over the coming weeks to ensure that the proposed regulatory changes are fit for purpose.

ENDS

Contact: Richard Ninness 021 892 536

Notes for editors

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76% of New Zealanders are concerned about children and teens’ exposure to visual media content and young people want more information about what they are going to see.

The current classification system was built around traditional platforms such as cinema released films and broadcast television programmes. The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act was passed in 1993.

Currently, most Commercial Video on-Demand services self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council.

Will this mean any loss of access to content?

The proposals are regarding classification, not censorship. The aim is to better inform users of CVoD content, not to prevent the supply of such content. Access to content would not be lost unless it met the definition of objectionable material under current law.

Are sites such as YouTube going to be regulated under this change?

Services that require payment from its customers will be captured by this change. This means that sites containing content that is created by users of that service (user-generated content) such as the main, payment-free, section of YouTube is not considered. Services requiring payment, such as YouTube’s movie rental service, will be included.